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Where to start with Buddhism

Monks & Mountains

Buddhism shows us a more compassionate and purposeful view of life and the means by which we might change our experiences for the better. Practising Buddhism involves changing the way we see and interact with the world. Practice takes the form of contemplation to consider how we might improve our daily experience. Meditation then familiarises us with improved patterns for thinking and behaving. Proper practice results in happiness and a wiser, more compassionate attitude in life. Tibetan Buddhism integrates all the various Buddhist teachings into an all embracing and down-to-earth practical approach to change. Dzogchen is the quickest and most effective means of practice from the longest-standing tradition of Tibetan Buddhism.

Tibetan Buddhism & the Nyingma Tradition

The Nyingma Tradition

The Nyingma tradition is one of the four main traditions of Tibetan Buddhism. The word ‘nyingma’ is a Tibetan term meaning the ‘older ones’ or the ‘old school’. Originally, when the Buddhist teachings were brought from India to Tibet, this tradition was simply know as ‘Buddhism’, but with subsequent introduction of different teaching lineages to Tibet, distinction was made between the old and new traditions.

Emphasis in the Nyingma tradition is placed on practising the Buddhist teachings. This is not to say that Nyingmapas, or followers of the Nyingma tradition, do not read the scriptures! Indeed, many of the greatest scholars of Tibet were Nyingma masters, including Mipham Rinpoche and the ‘All-knowing’ Longchen Rabjam.

The Nyingma Tradition and Dzogchen

Different approaches suit different people, so the Buddha taught a wide range of spiritual methods. The Nyingma tradition classifies the entire teachings of Buddhism into nine ‘vehicles’ or spiritual approaches:

Theravada
  • 1) The hearer’s vehicle [Skt. shravakayana]  
  • 2) The individual Buddha vehicle [Skt. pratyekabuddhayana]
Mahayana
  • 3) The Bodhisattva vehicle [Skt. bodhisatvayana]
Vajrayana
  • 4) Kriya tantra
  • 5) Ubhaya tantra
  • 6) Yoga tantra
  • 7) Mahayoga
  • 8) Anuyoga
Dzogchen
  • 9) Atiyoga

The teachings of each approach build upon the preceding one. The Hinayana tradition emphasises correct conduct, renunciation and meditative concentration. The Mahayana tradition integrates the teachings of the Hinayana while introducing the enlightening power of universal compassion. The Vajrayana tradition incorporates skilful methods for practice to promote the process of liberation. Dzogchen is considered by the Nyingma tradition to be the pinnacle of all practices. It incorporates profound meditative practices to bring about enlightenment swiftly.

Read more about the practice of Dzogchen

 

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